You all know the story. Fernando Torres was Liverpool's goal machine, a terror in the Premier League and international play. That is, until Chelsea bought him*. Since Roman Abramovich's cash brought Torres to Stamford Bridge, however, he's looked like a shell of his former self, the 27-year-old looking more like an actor in a football film than a 50M star striker.
*Not entirely true, but that's the narrative and so we're going to roll with it.
The excuses after a poor half-season with Chelsea are many and mostly valid. My go-to explanation is the lack of a player in the Chelsea midfield who can provide the style of service that the Spaniard thrives upon. The Blues are used to playing the ball into their centre forwards' feet rather than into space, and since Torres isn't Didier Drogba he has difficulty in dealing with being put under immediate pressure.
One might imagine that stylistic problems might be mitigated somewhat by having more time with the team, which is why so many pots of virtual ink have been spilled about Torres' troubles so far in the pre-season. No, he hasn't looked particularly good in any of the games so far. But then again, the entire team hasn't looked particularly good either, so there doesn't seem to be much point freaking about Torres at the moment.
The rest of the team, for what their opinions are worth, have given Torres their full backing to succeed at the club, and I'd be inclined to agree with them. I don't think Torres will be a bust, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if he scored somewhere between 15 and 20 goals next season. But, even ignoring the games for far in July, I am still worried about him, and I don't really understand how anyone could not be.
Goals aren't the be all and end all of measuring striker performance of course, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone to tell you that Torres has looked particularly good so far in his Chelsea career even without that one-goal return to date. He's had some good games - the cameo against West Ham United was phenomenal - but he's mostly looked somewhere between 'bad' and 'awful' in a blue shirt.
No matter how optimistic you are, we have to bear in mind what his play so far has told us. There's hope for Torres yet, and everyone harping about a lack of goals in the preseason for Torres is really rather silly, but there's no way that Chelsea fans should just assume that he'll be back to his best for the club this season. Right now, that's a guess. There's still some major uncertainty in El Nino's future, and we need to bear that in mind.
I'm not saying it's the end of the world or anything, but the middle ground between optimism and dark despair is probably the sensible place to inhabit on this one. So, some worry is probably required. Just not too much.